(The Philippine Star) - April 20, 2014 - 12:00am

For most people the Easter break is a time for vacation and enjoyment. Many devout Catholics however reflect on the death of Jesus, recalling to mind how Christ was tortured by the Roman soldiers, flogged on his back, made to wear a crown of thorns as he carried a huge wooden cross amid the jeers, the insults and the ridicule by unbelievers. Many people cringe at the thought of the excruciating pain Jesus must have endured on the road to Calvary to his eventual crucifixion – but few seldom reflect on the worst kind of agony the Messiah must have been going through knowing that those he loved dearly did the unthinkable: they betrayed Him.

Any talk of betrayal naturally brings to mind Judas Iscariot — one of the 12 apostles whose “kiss of death” became the undoing of Jesus, so to speak, and ultimately led to the crucifixion. Judas went to the high priest of the Sanhedrin and promised to deliver Jesus in exchange for 30 pieces of silver. To this day, the name of Judas has become synonymous with betrayal and treason of the worst kind.

However, it wasn’t only Judas Iscariot who was guilty of betrayal. Peter publicly renounced his dear friend, teacher and master – and this act of betrayal must have been more painful than the thick, long nails used to pierce the hands of Christ, or the spear that struck him on the side. Worse, Peter did it not just once but thrice – turning his back on the man whom he had sworn to follow even to death, running away from the crowd to save his own skin.

All throughout history, acts of treason and betrayal have been committed, driven by all kinds of motives that range from the noble to the selfish. There was Benedict Arnold who turned from a great American war general to turncoat and traitor, selling out to the British for 20,000 pounds because he was not given due recognition for his war exploits. Even today, the name of Benedict Arnold connotes treachery for Americans.

The Philippines also has its fair share of betrayers, among them Teodoro Patiño. According to historical accounts, Patiño worked in the printing press of Diario de Manila and was a member of the secret society known as the Katipunan. There are conflicting accounts as to his motive – with some saying he wanted revenge against fellow workers who humiliated him while others say he wanted to bring his sister to safety – but Patiño committed an act of betrayal when he revealed the existence of the Katipunan to Spanish friar Fr. Mariano Gil.

Judas of course is the most well known, although one other “famous” (or infamous as others would insist) betrayer is Marcus Junius Brutus, a senator of the Roman republic and a friend of Julius Caesar.  Not many know that during the Roman civil war in 49 BC, Brutus had cast his lot with the political conservatives known as the Optimates who were led by Pompey, an erstwhile ally of Julius Caesar and one of the so-called “First Triumvirate.” Caesar emerged victorious and began to rule as dictator of Rome, forgiving Brutus and restoring him to political power to the point that Brutus became part of Caesar’s inner circle.

One can only imagine Caesar’s utter surprise and dismay when he saw that one of his attackers – on that fateful day that has come to be known as the Ides of March – was none other than the man he had taken under his wing. “Et tu, Brute?” Which reminds me of a Spanish friend who felt betrayed by another friend and asked him, “y tu?” These have now become immortalized as the famous last words associated with the downright betrayal by a friend.

For many Filipinos however, the worst kind of deception and disservice that could ever be done against them is betrayal of public trust – something that is considered an impeachable offense in this country. If one can recall, there has been a lot of debate regarding what “betrayal of public trust” is particularly during the impeachment trial of then Chief Justice Renato Corona. According to the 1987 Constitution, an impeachable offense is one that constitutes a “culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust.” Unfortunately, the text does not exactly specify what can be considered a betrayal of public trust, with proposed definitions ranging from acts that are short of criminal but show tyrannical abuse of power, gross negligence of duty, betrayal of public interest, inexcusable negligence of duty, even favoritism and cronyism.

 But to most ordinary Filipinos however, betrayal of public trust is simple: It’s when those whom they have given the power and opportunity to decide their fate fail to deliver on their promises, when these people they have trusted to utilize the people’s money with prudence instead raid the public coffers for their own selfish interests. And the worst crime of all is when these people remain unremorseful, with the arrogance of power looking at their public office not as a responsibility but as entitlement, taking advantage of all the perks and privileges that go with the position of power.

But just as Lent reminds us of the betrayal of Judas and the death of Jesus, we are also reminded of the resurrection of Christ which we celebrate today, Easter Sunday. It is also that time of the year when one should turn to his conscience and learn to forgive. As one American President once said, “Always remember, those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.”

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